Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Sam's latest thing is to tell everyone she meets that she is four years old and that she'll be five on her next birthday.  Then she proceeds to tell them all the things that she will be able to do when she gets bigger (which I'm afraid she thinks will happen when she is five):

  • I can have two vitamins

  • I can drive a car

  • I can stay home by myself

  • I can go outside by myself

  • I can open the car door

  • I can have coffee

  • I can have a whole soda

It's nice to see her aspiring to these things.  She is really working hard on the concept of time, and the fact that she looks to the future is somewhat new.  She is also looking forward to summer, when she'll be able to go back to the local water park and spend more time at the playground.

It's fun to watch her try to work out different lengths of time.  When I told her this morning that I signed her up for swim lessons, and that we would start in one month, she said, "after nap?"  I said, "No, a month is 30 days."  She said, "after we go visit daddy at work?" That is what we are doing right after nap today, so the fact that she has those in order is good.  But then I told her that a month was about as long as it took from the day she started opening doors on her Advent calendar until Christmas.  I saw her wheels turning with that idea.  Analogies like that, that key into her values, are the best.

I haven't figured out anything to use for the concept of nine months, though.


  1. I've often used "after summer", "before your next birthday", "when the snow melts", "when the leaves turn colors again", "after you come home from school for the summer and then go back to school", "close to Halloween" for longer amounts of time.

    For close to a week we talk about how many times they need to go to bed and wake up again and all the things that will happen during those intermediate days. I remember something like, "You'll go to bed (different than taking nap), wake up and we'll go to the doctor. Then you'll go to sleep that night, wake up, and have a plate date. Then you'll go to sleep, wake up, go to sleep, wake up and that's the day we're going to the aquarium."

    Weekends were always pretty easy to understand because those were the days off of school and when daddy came home. So they were pretty good about after the weekend or after a couple of weekends.

    Using the idea of the Advent calendar is great. I know that made a big impression on my 3 year old.

  2. Kim, I guess I do the same thing, although I'm not sure how well Sam gets it yet. I do it mostly for the sake of future understanding. Holidays are big markers for Sam, as are our many trips. Just after I wrote this post, Sam asked me when New Years would come. I told her, "Not for a long time, because we just had New Years. First, we'll go to Italy, then you'll go to Michigan [a trip she'll take in July with her grandparents], then it will be summer, and then it will be your birthday, then the maybe-babies will be born, then it will be Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then New Years!"

    I guess I started doing that about a year ago, after Halloween, 2009, when she immediately wanted it to be Halloween again. Maybe something sunk in, because she seems to be starting to have a sense of it. At least, she didn't ask me if New Years would come right after nap.

  3. Our kids have always loved calendars! Even at 4, they understood the concept of crossing off days as a way of marking time toward an anticipated event. (My daughter's was over her bed, and we used to joke that all those "X"s over the days made it look like she was counting down until her prison release!) For much shorter time periods, I love using timers. This is especially true when I want to motivate them to do something that needs to be done, but I don't want to inject myself into the process by nagging them to do it. So, for example, when I wanted them to pick up toys at the end of the day and they didn't want to, I would say, "I'm setting the timer for X minutes. When it goes off, everything that remains on the floor is mine to do with what I want!" It was a great motivator for quick action!

  4. It would be interesting to read an academic study about how the concept of time develops in children. I've watched Charlie go from learning the difference between now and not-now to understanding the difference between things that happened already and things that will happen in the future. But he still calls all of the former "yesterday" and all of the latter "tomorrow." Occasionally he says "in a few weeks," but I know he's just copying my expression without understanding.

  5. It does take a surprisingly long time for children to begin to understand lengths of time. Speaking of calendars, I forgot about another sign of Sam's burgeoning understanding. I've shown her calendars many times, but all she's ever wanted to do with one is to color it in. I could mark off days, but it didn't interest her at all. But when we got home from New York and she had five days to wait before she could watch TV, she went straight to her calendar and circled exactly five days. They weren't the right days, but she knew that each square represented a day. That's the first time she's shown that understanding.